indian sweet rice with dried figs and nuts

Indian Sweet Rice with Dried Figs and Nuts | A Brown Table

Let's start this Monday with some exciting news! This Wednesday, October 8th, I will be co-hosting a Supper club in San Francisco along with my dear friends, Phi of Princess Tofu and Alanna of The Bonjon Gourmet! This is a first for me, I've entertained at home quite a bit but never on a professional level, so I am definitely a little enthusiastic and excited about this fun venture. Phi and Alanna were kind enough to ask me to join them and I leaped at the opportunity because it's all about sharing our love to cook and create new recipes.

The entire menu will be centered around fresh figs grown locally and we've come up with some fun and delicious way to use figs in every course of the menu. The girls went to Santa Rosa over the weekend and picked bucket loads of figs of all sorts of colors, shapes and sizes from the trees, my only regret is not being able to join them in their adventures because they had a blast! Do check out their respective blogs for more of their trip. 

Indian Sweet Rice with Dried Figs and Nuts | A Brown Table

Fig season is a good one, full of fat and juicy figs that need to be eaten. Alas, this season is short but thankfully, someone figured out how to preserve figs by drying them centuries ago! This recipe that I am sharing with you today is a sweetened rice pilaf mixed with sautéed dried figs and nuts. I honestly, can't remember the exact first time, I ate sweet rice or "meetha chawal" but I do remember that I love it enough to make it a few times every year. 

Basmati rice is fragrant to begin with but saffron and the other spices add a sweet aroma that makes this dessert truly comforting. One way to describe this rice dessert would be a sweet pilaf. I like to serve this as a dessert after a fairly light meal (and sometimes even eat it for breakfast).  

Indian Sweet Rice with Dried Figs and Nuts | A Brown Table

Here are some of my tips on making this sweet rice, 

  • I can't stress the importance of using a good quality Indian variety of basmati. Not only is the grain long and fine, the starch content is different and the aroma will also be very fragrant. 
  • When cooking basmati rice, I like to wash the rice thoroughly to get rid of any starch that might result in stickiness during cooking.
  • Ghee can substituted with any vegetable oil that has a neutral flavor.
Indian Sweet Rice with Dried Figs and Nuts | A Brown Table

indian sweet rice with dried figs and nuts

yields: 4-6 servings

ingredients

1 cup long grain basmati rice

3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil

1 cup dried black mission/brown turkey figs (or any other type of dried figs), stalks removed and chopped

1/4 cup raw almonds, sliced

1/4 cup raw pistachios, chopped

6 whole cloves

1 inch piece cinnamon stick

6 green cardamom pods, cracked

1 teaspoon saffron strands soaked in 4 tablespoons of boiling water for 30 minutes

2 cups water

1/2 cup brown sugar

1. Wash the basmati rice under running cold tap water until no traces of white starch can be seen. Soak the rice in bowl in fresh cold tap water for 1 hour. 

2. While the rice is soaking, heat 1 tablespoon of the ghee or oil in a  deep thick-bottomed saucepan ( a non-stick pan can also be used here) on medium-high heat. Once the ghee is hot, sauté the chopped figs for about 1 minute, then add the almonds and pistachios and fry them for another 1 minute. Remove the sautéed figs and nuts and place them on a paper towel to drain any excess oil.

3. In the same pan, heat the rest of the ghee on medium-high heat. Add the cloves, cinnamon and cardamom and fry the spices for 30 seconds. Drain the excess liquid from the soaked rice and add the rice to the pan with the spices, stir and sauté for about 2 minutes with constant stirring. Add the saffron mixture, water and sugar to the rice, increase the heat to high and bring the contents to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to medium-low, cover with a lid and cook until the liquid evaporates. The rice will be long and tender once cooked which should take about 35-40 minutes. Remove from stove and allow to cool with the lid on for about 5-6 minutes. Fluff the rice up with a fork and stir in the fruit and nuts. Serve warm. 

masala chai

Masala Chai | A Brown Table

I decided to get an orchid from the Mountain View Farmer's market. It's not like I've had a lot of luck with them in the past but they are so beautiful that I find it hard to resist. Let's just hope this one lasts and after all the flowers are gone, this plant will sprout some new buds. Here's to some wishful thinking! If you have any orchid tips, do let me know, I need all the help I can get.

Orchids | A Brown TableMasala Chai | A Brown Table

This weekend, my buddies, Alanna of The Bojon Gourmet and Phi of Princess Tofu came over to spend a day. If you follow us on Instagram you might have noticed all the insane amount of eating, cooking and photographing that happened. I took the girls out to try some Indian street food at one of my favorite chaat houses in South Bay, followed by a trip to an Indian grocery store, some pumpkin picking, some cooking, more eating, photography and a whole lot of chatting. And there was chai, we had lots of it, I could think of no better way than to spend my day with these two extremely talented people. 

Masala Chai | A Brown Table

Chai is a ritual habit for some and Indian houses make masala chai in several different ways. Here are some of my tips on making chai at home,

  • I buy loose black tea (tea bags are good) and I generally use the Assam black tea variety at home.
  • Chai (tea) with no spices (masala), is simply called chai in Hindi. There are several different types and combinations of spices that can be added to tea. Some people prefer some more to others. Personally, I prefer green cardamom and ginger in my masala chai, I use them individually or together depending on what I have in the house. Either way of all the spices I've listed in my recipe here, green cardamom and ginger are my top choices. (I haven't shown cloves and peppercorns in the photograph but they are good additions to the masala (spice) blend.
  • Adding the ingredients at the right temperature to the water is important because it helps in infusing the flavors correctly. 
  • When crushing the spices, just crush them once or twice with a mortar and pestle to release the seeds, do not over grind or pound them excessively into a powder. 
  • For sweeteners, you can use sugar, honey or even raw Indian sugar - jaggery. 
  • Milk or any other non-dairy milk is completely optional. 
Masala Chai | A Brown Table

masala chai

yields : 4 cups

ingredients

4 cups water

1 inch piece ginger root

4 whole green cardamom pods, crushed

1 black cardamom pod, crushed (optional)

1 inch piece cinnamon stick (optional)

6-8 black peppercorns, crushed (optional)

4 whole cloves, crushed (optional)

1 1/2 teaspoons black tea leaves  (Assam tea)

around 1 /2 cup hot milk or what ever kind of vegetarian milk you prefer (rice, soy or nut based) (amount used might be more or less depending  upon your personal preference on how dark or light you want the tea)

sugar to sweeten as needed 

1. Place the water in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil on medium high and add the spices immediately.Bo (I always add either ginger and/or green cardamom, the rest are all optional). 

2. Remove the saucepan from the stove and allow to the spices to infuse for about 4-5 minutes. Place the saucepan back on the stove and bring to a boil on medium high. As soon as the water begins to boil, add the tea leaves and reduce the flame to low. Allow the liquid to boil for about 30 seconds and remove from stove. Cover with a lid and allow to sit for 1 minute. 

4. To serve, pass the hot tea through a tea strainer to get rid of the tea leaves and spices into a teapot or teacup (as needed). Add enough milk to get a light brown color (depends on how dark or light you like your tea) and sweeten as needed. Serve hot with cookies or pastries.